BOISE – With a 12-game winning streak on the line, Boise State turned to its veteran leader and most experienced player in crunch time.
Abu Kigab said, ‘I got this.’
The fifth-year senior and former Oregon transfer tied the game on a basket with 1:34 to play and put the Broncos up for good with a pair of free throws a short time later to help the Boise State sneak past Wyoming 65-62 to equal the program record with a 13th consecutive win.
In the final three minutes Kigab also took a charge, had two huge defensive rebounds and made 5 of 6 free throws during a personal 7-0 run to help Boise State overcome a 2-point deficit to improve to 16-4 overall and 7-0 in Mountain West play.
“He made big play after big play down the stretch,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “He’s a great second-half player. The more tired everybody else gets the better Abu gets I think.”
Kigab finished with a game-high 18 points and five assists for the Broncos, who led 54-44 with 6:47 to play before Wyoming stormed back to lead 60-58 with 2:46 to play on a 4-point play from Drake Jeffries.
With a season-high crowd of 8,292 suddenly quiet and nervous, Kigab calmly backed down his defender and scored on a short one-handed shot in the paint to even the score at 60.
“I knew I was going to score on him,” Kigab said. “We work on that every single day and I knew if I took my time I’d get a good shot and that’s what I did.”
Kigab then took a charge on the defensive end and hit two free throws with 1:08 to give the Broncos the lead. Twice in the final minute he then grabbed defensive rebounds and got fouled and made three of four free throws to extend Boise State’s lead.
“Big finish,” Kigab said. “We knew it would come down to our defensive rebounding and hitting those free throws at the end and we did a good job of that.
“We’ve been in so many close games this year and we have such a tight roster and the guys, all of them make winning plays. They will do whatever it takes at the end of the game.”
Freshman Tyson Degenhart had 14 points and Naje Smith and Mladen Armus each added eight for the Broncos, who won despite getting out-shot and out-rebounded by Wyoming.
The game featured 13 lead changes and four ties – and even the ejection of former Boise State player Matt Bauscher by lead official Verne Harris while sitting in the front row with 2:46 left.
Bauscher, who will join Bronco Nation News for his weekly interview at 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, clapped his hands and waved his arms to pump up the crowd as he was escorted out of the arena.
The Broncos promptly went on a 7-1 with Kigab’s seven points to take the lead for good.
Marcus Shaver Jr. rolled his ankle late in the first half but returned and played all 20 minutes in the second half. Shaver Jr. and Emmanuel Akot combined to score just 10 points and Armus was in foul trouble for a good portion of the game – and the Broncos still found a way to win.
“These guys are amazing,” Rice said. “I’m so proud of the guys and the way we just keep battling and battling and somehow find ways (to keep winning).”
Wyoming (15-3, 4-1 MW), which entered as the only other unbeaten team in the Mountain West, got 19 points and nine rebounds from Graham Ike and 17 points from Hunter Maldonado.
Boise State hasn’t lost in nearly two months – Nov. 30 against Saint Louis – and sits alone atop the league standings. The 13 wins equals the school record set last year, but that came with no fans in the stands and against some of the worst teams in the Mountain West.
This year’s streak is much more impressive. The Broncos have beaten six teams ranked in the top 100 at KenPom and won five road games during the 13-game run.
“We’re super confident when it comes down to the wire,” Degenhart said. “On this win streak we’ve been in a lot of close games and we’ve found ways to win and we continue to do that each and every night.”
Boise State will look to establish a new school record of 14 wins in a row on Friday night at Fresno State, which ranks No. 57 at KenPom and nearly beat the Broncos in a close game in Boise back on Dec. 28.
The Broncos, riding high and on a roll, are confident they can continue the streak and enter their names into the record books.
“It’s going to happen,” Kigab said emphatically. “It’s going to happen for sure.”
Tip off is set for 9 p.m. MT and the game will air nationally on FOX Sports 1.
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